California False Claims Act - 12650-12655

The California False Claims Act,
Cal. Gov't Code Sections 12650-12655 (1992)

Article 9

FALSE CLAIMS ACTIONS

Section

* 12650 Definitions.
* 12651 Acts subjecting person to treble damages, costs and civil penalties; exceptions.
* 12652 Attorney general investigations and prosecutions; powers of prosecuting authority; civil actions by individuals as qui tam plaintiff; jurisdiction of courts.
* 12653 Employer interference with employee disclosures, etc.; liability of employer; remedies of employee.
* 12654 Limitation of actions; activities antedating this article; burden of proof.
* 12655 Remedies under other laws; severability of provisions; liberality of article construction.

Section 12650 Definitions

For purposes of this article:

(a) "Claim" includes any request or demand for money, property, or services made to any employee, officer, or agent of the state or of any political subdivision, or to any contractor, grantee, or other recipient, whether under contract or not, if any portion of the money, property, or services requested or demanded issued from, or was provided by, the state (hereinafter "state funds") or by any political subdivision thereof (hereinafter "political subdivision funds").

(b) "Knowing" and "knowingly" mean that a person, with respect to information, does any of the following:

(1) Has actual knowledge of the information.

(2) Acts in deliberate ignorance of the truth or falsity of the information.

(3) Acts in reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the information.

Proof of specific intent to defraud is not required.

(c) "Political subdivision" includes any city, city and county, county, tax or assessment district, or other legally authorized local governmental entity with jurisdictional boundaries.

(d) "Prosecuting authority" refers to the county counsel, city attorney, or other local government official charged with investigating, filing, and conducting civil legal proceedings on behalf of, or in the name of, a particular political subdivision.

(e) "Person" includes any natural person, corporation, firm, association, organization, partnership, business, or trust.

Section 12651 Acts subjecting person to treble damages, costs and civil penalties; exceptions

(a) Any person who commits any of the following acts shall be liable to the state or to the political subdivision for three times the amount of damages which the state or the political subdivision sustains because of the act of that person. A person who commits any of the following acts shall also be liable to the state or to the political subdivision for the costs of a civil action brought to recover any of those penalties or damages, and may be liable to the state or political subdivision for a civil penalty of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for each false claim:

(1) Knowingly presents or causes to be presented to an officer or employee of the state or of any political subdivision thereof, a false claim for payment or approval.

(2) Knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used a false record or statement to get a false claim paid or approved by the state or by any political subdivision.

(3) Conspires to defraud the state or any political subdivision by getting a false claim allowed or paid by the state or by any political subdivision.

(4) Has possession, custody, or control of public property or money used or to be used by the state or by any political subdivision and knowingly delivers or causes to be delivered less property than the amount for which the person receives a certificate or receipt.

(5) Is authorized to make or deliver a document certifying receipt of property used or to be used by the state or by any political subdivision and knowingly makes or delivers a receipt that falsely represents the property used or to be used.

(6) Knowingly buys, or receives as a pledge of an obligation or debt, public property from any person who lawfully may not sell or pledge the property.

(7) Knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used a false record or statement to conceal, avoid, or decrease an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the state or to any political subdivision.

(8) Is a beneficiary of an inadvertent submission of a false claim to the state or a political subdivision, subsequently discovers the falsity of the claim, and fails to disclose the false claim to the state or the political subdivision within a reasonable time after discovery of the false claim.

(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), the court may assess not less than two times and not more than three times the amount of damages which the state or the political subdivision sustains because of the act of the person described in that subdivision, and no civil penalty, if the court finds all of the following:

(1) The person committing the violation furnished officials of the state or of the political subdivision responsible for investigating false claims violations with all information known to that person about the violation within 30 days after the date on which the person first obtained the information.

(2) The person fully cooperated with any investigation by the state or a political subdivision of the violation.

(3) At the time the person furnished the state or the political subdivision with information about the violation, no criminal prosecution, civil action, or administrative action had commenced with respect to the violation, and the person did not have actual knowledge of the existence of an investigation into the violation.

(c) Liability under this section shall be joint and several for any act committed by two or more persons.

(d) This section does not apply to any controversy involving an amount of less than five hundred dollars ($500) in value. For purposes of this subdivision, "controversy" means any one or more false claims submitted by the same person in violation of this article.

(e) This section does not apply to claims, records, or statements made pursuant to Division 3.6 (commencing with Section 810) of Title I or to workers' compensation claims filed pursuant to Division 4 (commencing with Section 3200) of the Labor Code.

(f) This section does not apply to claims, records, or statements made under the Revenue and Taxation Code.

Section 12652 Attorney general investigations and prosecutions; powers of prosecuting authority; civil actions by individuals as qui tam plaintiff; jurisdiction of courts

(a)(1) The Attorney General shall diligently investigate violations under Section 12651 involving state funds. If the Attorney General finds that a person has violated or is violating Section 12651, the Attorney General may bring a civil action under this section against that person.

(2) If the Attorney General brings a civil action under this subdivision on a claim involving political subdivision funds as well as state funds, the Attorney General shall, on the same date that the complaint is filed in this action, serve by mail with "return receipt request[ed]" a copy of the complaint on the appropriate prosecuting authority.

(3) The prosecuting authority shall have the right to intervene in an action brought by the Attorney General under this subdivision within 60 days after receipt of the complaint pursuant to paragraph (2). The court may permit intervention thereafter upon a showing that all of the requirements of Section 387 of the Code of Civil Procedure have been met.

(b)(1) The prosecuting authority of a political subdivision shall diligently investigate violations under Section 12651 involving political subdivision funds. If the prosecuting authority finds that a person has violated or is violating Section 12651, the prosecuting authority may bring a civil action under this section against that person.

(2) If the prosecuting authority brings a civil action under this section on a claim involving state funds as well as political subdivision funds, the prosecuting authority shall, on the same date that the complaint is filed in this action, serve a copy of the complaint on the Attorney General.

(3) Within 60 days after receiving the complaint pursuant to paragraph (2), the Attorney General shall do either of the following:

(A) Notify the court that it intends to proceed with the action, in which case the Attorney General shall assume primary responsibility for conducting the action and the prosecuting authority shall have the right to continue as a party.

(B) Notify the court that it declines to take over the action, in which case the prosecuting authority shall have the right to conduct the action.

(C)(1) A person may bring a civil action for a violation of this article for the person and either for the State of California in the name of the state, if any state funds are involved, or for a political subdivision in the name of the political subdivision, if political subdivision funds are exclusively involved. The person bringing the action shall be referred to as the qui tam plaintiff. Once filed, the action may be dismissed only with the written consent of the court, taking into account the best interest of the parties involved and the public purposes behind this act.

(2) A complaint filed by a private person under this subdivision shall be filed in superior court in camera and may remain under seal for up to 60 days. No service shall be made on the defendant until after the complaint is unsealed.

(3) On the same day as the complaint is filed pursuant to paragraph (2), the qui tam plaintiff shall serve by mail with "return receipt requested" the Attorney General with a copy of the complaint and a written disclosure of substantially all material evidence and information the person possesses.

(4) Within 60 days after receiving a complaint alleging violations which involve state funds but not political subdivision funds. the Attorney General shall do either of the following:

(A) Notify the court that it intends to proceed with the action, in which case the seal shall be lifted.

(B) Notify the court that it declines to take over the action, in which case the seal shall be lifted and the qui tam plaintiff shall have the right to conduct the action.

(5)(A) Within 15 days after receiving a complaint alleging violations which exclusively involve political subdivision funds, the Attorney General shall forward the complaint and written disclosure to the appropriate prosecuting authority for disposition and shall notify the qui tam plaintiff of the transfer.

(B) Within 45 days after the Attorney General forwards the complaint and written disclosure pursuant to subparagraph (A), the prosecuting authority shall do either of the following:

(i) Notify the court that it intends to proceed with the action, in which case the seal shall be lifted.

(ii) Notify the court that it declines to take over the action, in which case the seal shall be lifted and the qui tam plaintiff shall have the right to conduct the action.

(6)(A) Within 15 days after receiving a complaint alleging violations which involve both state and political subdivision funds, the Attorney General shall forward copies of the complaint and written disclosure to the appropriate prosecuting authority, and shall coordinate its review and investigation with those of the prosecuting authority.

(B) Within 60 days after receiving a complaint alleging violations which involve both state and political subdivision funds, the Attorney General shall do either of the following:

(i) Notify the court that it intends to proceed with the action, in which case the seal shall be lifted.

(ii) Notify the court that it declines to take over the action but that the prosecuting authority of the political subdivision involved intends to proceed with the action, in which case the seal shall be lifted and the action shall be conducted by the prosecuting authority.

(iii) Notify the court that both it and the prosecuting authority decline to take over the action, in which case the seal shall be lifted and the qui tam plaintiff shall have the right to conduct the action.

(C) If the Attorney General proceeds with the action pursuant to clause (i) of subparagraph (B), the political subdivision shall be permitted to intervene in the action within 60 days after the Attorney General notifies the court of its intentions. The court may authorize intervention thereafter upon a showing that all the requirements of Section 387 of the Code of Civil Procedure have been met.

(7) Upon a showing of good cause and reasonable diligence in its investigation, the Attorney General or the prosecuting authority of a political subdivision may move the court for extensions of the time during which the complaint remains under seal, but in no event may the complaint remain under seal for longer than 90 days.

(8) When a person brings an action under this subdivision, no other person may bring a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action.

(d)(1) No court shall have jurisdiction over an action brought under subdivision (c) against a member of the State Senate or Assembly, a member of the state judiciary, an elected official in the executive branch of the state, or a member of the governing body of any political subdivision if the action is based on evidence or information known to the state or political subdivision when the action was brought.

(2) In no event may a person bring an action under subdivision (c) which is based upon allegations or transactions which are the subject of a civil suit or an administrative civil money penalty proceeding in which the state or political subdivision is already a party.

(3)(A) No court shall have jurisdiction over an action under this article based upon the public disclosure of allegations or transactions in a criminal, civil, or administrative hearing, in an investigation, report, hearing, or audit conducted by or at the request of the Senate, Assembly, auditor, or governing body of a political subdivision, or from the news media, unless the action is brought by the Attorney General or the prosecuting authority of a political subdivision, or the person bringing the action is an original source of the information.

(B) For purposes of subparagraph (A), "original source" means an individual who has direct and independent knowledge of the information on which the allegations are based, who voluntarily provided the information to the state or political subdivision before filing an action based on that information, and whose information provided the basis or catalyst for the investigation, hearing, audit, or report which led to the public disclosure as described in subparagraph (A).

(4) No court shall have jurisdiction over an action brought under subsection (c) based upon information discovered by a present or former employee of the state or a political subdivision during the course of his or her employment, unless that employee first in good faith exhausted existing internal procedures for reporting and seeking recovery of such falsely claimed sums through official channels and unless the state or political subdivision failed to act on the information provided within a reasonable period of time.

(e)(1) If the state or political subdivision proceeds with the action, it shall have the primary responsibility for prosecuting the action. The qui tam plaintiff shall have the right to continue as a full party to the action.

(2)(A) The state or political subdivision may seek to dismiss the action for good cause notwithstanding the objections of the qui tam plaintiff if the qui tam plaintiff has been notified by the state or political subdivision of the filing of the motion and the court has provided the qui tam plaintiff with an opportunity to oppose the motion and present evidence at a hearing.

(B) The state or political subdivision may settle the action with the defendant notwithstanding the objections of the qui tam plaintiff if the court determines, after a hearing providing the qui tam plaintiff an opportunity to present evidence, that the proposed settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable under all of the circumstances.

(f)(1) If the state or political subdivision elects not to proceed, the qui tam plaintiff shall have the same right to conduct the action as the Attorney General or prosecuting authority would have had if it had chosen to proceed under subdivision (c). If the state or political subdivision so requests, and at its expense, the state or political subdivision shall be served with copies of all pleadings filed in the action and supplied with copies of all deposition transcripts.

(2)(A) Upon timely application, the court shall permit the state or political subdivision to intervene in an action with which it had initially declined to proceed if the interest of the state or political subdivision in recovery of the property or funds involved is not being adequately represented by the qui tam plaintiff.

(B) If the state or political subdivision is allowed to intervene under paragraph(A), the qui tam plaintiff shall retain principal responsibility for the action and the recovery of the parties shall be determined as if the state or political subdivision had elected not to proceed.

(g)(1)(A) If the Attorney General initiates an action pursuant to subdivision (a) or assumes control of an action initiated by a prosecuting authority pursuant to subparagraph (A) of paragraph (3) of subdivision (b), the office of the Attorney General shall receive a fixed 33 percent of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim, which funds shall be used to support its ongoing investigation and prosecution of false claims.

(B) If a prosecuting authority initiates and conducts an action pursuant to subdivision (b), the office of the prosecuting authority shall receive a fixed 33 percent of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim, which funds shall be used to support its ongoing investigation and prosecution of false claims.

(C) If a prosecuting authority intervenes in an action initiated by the Attorney General pursuant to paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) or remains a party to an action assumed by the Attorney General pursuant to subparagraph (A) of paragraph (3) of subdivision (b), the court may award the office of the prosecuting authority a portion of the Attorney General's fixed 33 percent of the recovery under subparagraph (A), taking into account the prosecuting authority's role in investigating and conducting the action.

(2) If the state or political subdivision proceeds with an action brought by a qui tam plaintiff under subdivision (c), the qui tam plaintiff shall, subject to paragraphs (4)and (5), receive at least 15 percent but not more than 33 percent of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim, depending upon the extent to which the qui tam plaintiff substantially contributed to the prosecution of the action. When it conducts the action, the Attorney General's office or the office of the prosecuting authority of the political subdivision shall receive a fixed 33 percent of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim, which funds shall be used to support its ongoing investigation and prosecution of false claims made against the state or political subdivision. When both the Attorney General and a prosecuting authority are involved in a qui tam action pursuant to subparagraph (C) of paragraph (6) of subdivision (c), the court at its discretion may award the prosecuting authority a portion of the Attorney General's fixed 33 percent of the recovery, taking into account the prosecuting authority's contribution to investigating and conducting the action.

(3) If the state or political subdivision does not proceed with an action under subdivision (c), the qui tam plaintiff shall, subject to paragraphs (4) and (5), receive an amount which the court decides is reasonable for collecting the civil penalty and damages on behalf of the Government. The amount shall be not less than 25 percent and not more than 50 percent of the proceeds of the action or settlement and shall be paid out of such proceeds.

(4) Where the action is one provided for under paragraph (4) of subdivision (d), the present or former employee of the state or political subdivision shall not be entitled to any minimum guaranteed recovery from the proceeds. The court, however, may award the qui tam plaintiff those sums from the proceeds as it considers appropriate, but in no case more than 33 percent of the proceeds if the state or political subdivision goes forth with the action or 50 percent if the state or political subdivision declines to go forth, taking into account the significance of the information, the role of the qui tam plaintiff in advancing the case to litigation, and the scope of, and response to, the employee's attempts to report and gain recovery of such falsely claimed funds through official channels.

(5) Where the action is one which the court finds to be based primarily on information from a present or former employee who actively participated in the fraudulent activity, the employee shall not be entitled to any minimum guaranteed recovery from the proceeds. The court, however, may award the qui tam plaintiff such sums from the proceeds as it considers appropriate, but in no case more than 33 percent of the proceeds if the state or political subdivision goes forth with the action or 50 percent if the state or political subdivision declines to go forth, taking into account the significance of the information, the role of the qui tam plaintiff in advancing the case to litigation, the scope of the present or past employee's involvement in the fraudulent activity, said employee's attempts to avoid or resist such activity, and all other circumstances surrounding the activity.

(6) The portion of the recovery not distributed pursuant to paragraphs (1) to (5), inclusive, shall revert to the state if the underlying false claims involved state funds exclusively and to the political subdivision if the underlying false claims involved political subdivision funds exclusively. If the violation involved both state and political subdivision funds, the court shall make an apportionment between the state and political subdivision based on their relative share of the funds falsely claimed.

(7) For purposes of this section, "proceeds" include civil penalties as well as double or treble damages as provided in Section 12651.

(8) If the state, political subdivision, or the qui tam plaintiff prevails in or settles any action under subdivision (c), the qui tam plaintiff shall receive an amount for reasonable expenses which the court finds to have been necessarily incurred, plus reasonable costs and attorneys' fees. All expenses, costs, and fees shall be awarded against the defendant and under no circumstances shall they be the responsibility of the state or political subdivision.

(9) If the state or political subdivision does not proceed with the action and the qui tam plaintiff conducts the action, the court may award to the defendant its reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses if the defendant prevails in the action and the court finds that the claim of the qui tam plaintiff was clearly frivolous, clearly vexatious, or brought solely for purposes of harassment.

(h) The court may stay an act of discovery of the person initiating the action for a period of not more than 60 days if the Attorney General or local prosecuting authority show that the act of discovery would interfere with an investigation or a prosecution of a criminal or civil matter arising out of the same facts, regardless of whether the Attorney General or local prosecuting authority proceeds with the action. Such a showing shall be conducted in camera. The court may extend the 60-day period upon a further showing in camera that the Attorney General or local prosecuting authority has pursued the criminal or civil investigation or proceedings with reasonable diligence and any proposed discovery in the civil action will interfere with the ongoing criminal or civil investigation or proceedings.

(i) Upon a showing by the Attorney General or local prosecuting authority that unrestricted participation during the course of the litigation by the person initiating the action would interfere with or unduly delay the Attorney General's or local prosecuting's authority prosecution of the case, or would be repetitious, irrelevant, or for purposes of harassment, the court may, in its discretion, impose limitations on the person's participation, including the following:

(1) Limiting the number of witnesses the person may call.

(2) Limiting the length of the testimony of such witnesses.

(3) Limiting the person's cross-examination of witnesses.

(4) Otherwise limiting the participation by the person in the litigation.

Section 12653 Employer interference with employee disclosures, etc.; liability of employer, remedies of employee

(a) No employer shall make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy preventing an employee from disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency or from acting in furtherance of a false claims action, including investigating, initiating, testifying, or assisting in an action filed or to be filed under Section 12652.

(b) No employer shall discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, deny promotion to, or in any other manner discriminate against, an employee in the terms and conditions of employment because of lawful acts done by the employee on behalf of the employee or others in disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency or in furthering a false claims action, including investigation for, initiation of, testimony for, or assistance in, an action filed or to be filed under Section 12652.

(c) An employer who violates subdivision (b) shall be liable for all relief necessary to make the employee whole, including reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would have had but for the discrimination, two times the amount of back pay, interest on the back pay, compensation for any special damage sustained as a result of the discrimination, and, where appropriate. punitive damages. In addition, the defendant shall be required to pay litigation costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. An employee may bring an action in the appropriate superior court of the state for the relief provided in this subdivision.

(d) An employee who is discharged, demoted, suspended, harassed, denied promotion, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment by his or her employer because of participation in conduct which directly or indirectly resulted in a false claim being submitted to the state or a political subdivision shall be entitled to the remedies under subdivision (c) if, and only if, both of the following occur:

(1) The employee voluntarily disclosed information to a government or law enforcement agency or acted in furtherance of a false claims action, including investigation for, initiation of, testimony for, or assistance in an action filed or to be filed.

(2) The employee had been harassed, threatened with termination or demotion, or otherwise coerced by the employer or its management into engaging in the fraudulent activity in the first place.

Section 12654 Limitation of actions; activities antedating this article; burden of proof

(a) A civil action under Section 12652 may not be filed more than three years after the date of discovery by the official of the state or political subdivision charged with responsibility to act in the circumstances or, in any event, no more than 10 years after the date on which the violation of Section 12651 is committed.

(b) A civil action under Section 12652 may be brought for activity prior to the effective date of this article if the limitations period set in subdivision (a) has not lapsed.

(c) In any action brought under Section 12652, the state, the political subdivision, or the qui tam plaintiff shall be required to prove all essential elements of the cause of action, including damages, by a preponderance of the evidence.

(d) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a guilty verdict rendered in a criminal proceeding charging false statements or fraud, whether upon a verdict after trial or upon a plea of guilty or nolo contenders, except for a plea of nolo contenders made prior to January 1, 1988, shall estop the defendant from denying the essential elements of the offense in any action which involves the same transaction as in the criminal proceeding and which is brought under subdivision (a), (b), or (c) of Section 12652.

Section 12655 Remedies under other laws; severability of provisions; liberality of article construction

(a) The provisions of this article are not exclusive, and the remedies provided for in this article shall be in addition to any other remedies provided for in any other law or available under common law.

(b) If any provision of this article or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of the article and the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.

(c) This article shall be liberally construed and applied to promote the public interest.